MLB.com has released the 2010 subscription prices for MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium today. A subscription service once again looks like being the only way to listen to/watch MLB this season here in the UK as no free-to-air TV deal appears forthcoming. Brits will welcome the early announcement of MLB.com’s offerings, allowing plenty of pre-season time to consider the options available (subscribing to ESPN America being the ‘TV’ choice).
Here are the prices for the annual ‘video’ subscriptions, based on the exchange rate as it stands today:
MLB.TV Premium – £74 ($119.95)
MLB.TV – £61.60 ($99.95)
The promotional material for the 2009 MLB.TV launch made a big point of stressing that the prices were reduced by $10 from the 2008 level. This year, the pricing detail is much lower down the launch article, so it’s no surprise when you get to that text and find that the prices have gone back up.
Last year’s price reduction didn’t help us much in Britain because the dollar/pound exchange rate had changed for the worse, meaning that in real terms we had to pay more in 2009 than in 2008. Things have improved since then so despite the $10 increase, MLB.TV Premium comes in at basically the same price as what it did last year: £74. However, the unwelcome news is that MLB.com has decided to put the standard MLB.TV package up to a record high price of $99.95. This means that it is now just $20 cheaper than the Premium service, rather than $30 as it has been for the last 3 years or more. The result is that Brits will pay approximately £61.60 for MLB.TV in 2010, as opposed to £54.60 last year.
New for 2010
Price increases are never welcome, but they are easier to stomach if they bring improvements to the previous service. The promotional article does promise a media player that will “deliver a fleet of enhancements in a convenient, cutting-edge Adobe Flash format” so that’s a start; however it appears as though the MLB.TV price increase is largely based on the picture quality. Last year, the big difference between MLB.TV and MLB.TV Premium was that the latter allowed you to watch games at a higher streaming rate than the standard, producing an outstanding HD-type picture. The ‘HD quality’ picture has now been added to the basic MLB.TV subscription, leading to an increase in the MLB.TV price and a reduction in the price gap between that subscription package and the Premium version. The additional MLB.TV Premium features are simply listed as:
- Choice of Home or Away Broadcast
- DVR Controls (Pause and Rewind LIVE Games)
- Multi-Game View (Quad View, Picture in Picture, Split Screen)
Picture quality is a primary concern for many, so allowing both subscriptions to carry the highest quality makes sense in that respect; however, the HD picture is only available to people with an Internet set-up that can cope with the bandwidth demands. In UK terms, bearing in mind our largely shoddy broadband network, you need to have a fairly top-spec set-up to truly enjoy the benefits. While some will welcome the news, for others (including myself) it will mean paying an extra $10 for something that can’t really be taken advantage of. Subscribers will still be able to use the ‘Quality’ gauge to set the streaming rate to one which their system will cope with though, so you don’t need to have the top spec to watch games with a decent standard of picture quality (and I’ve always found the lower quality picture to be more than adequate, so long as you’re not expecting something crystal clear).
Value for money
2,430 games (we can watch all of them as we are not subject to any of the blackout issues that plague fans in North America) at basically £62 for the standard MLB.TV works out at approximately a quarter of a pence per game. Now, clearly no one watches every single game in full, but I easily dip into an average of 15 per week (and being able to listen to/watch a few innings of one game, then a few of another, is a big part of the appeal for me). That works out at paying 15p. per live game for those I access, before taking into account the Spring Training and postseason games. There are broadband costs on top, of course, but I would be paying for those anyway. As it is, that still represents a very good deal and a £7 increase on last year’s price doesn’t put me off renewing at all.
Whether it sounds like a good deal for you really depends on how much you are likely to use your subscription. If you’re happy to get a smaller selection of games and enjoy watching them on a TV, then going down the ESPN America route would seem like the best bet. It’s a shame that there isn’t an MLB.TV alternative that allows people to watch a limited number of games, for example just the ESPN Sunday Night contests. MLB.com did originally allow subscribers to pay to access individual live games, but that option was stopped a few years ago and you can see why that isn’t such an attractive proposition for MLB.com. More to the point, national broadcasts such as those ESPN Sunday Night games are covered by ‘blackouts’ in America anyway, so it’s not something that would benefit their core market of fans in the States.
Gameday Audio and Gameday
The main alternatives to the video subscriptions last year were choosing either to listen to home and away radio feeds, or to match the radio feeds with MLB.com’s Gameday Premium service (both came as part of the MLB.TV and Premium subscriptions). Details about Gameday Audio and Gameday Premium subscriptions are currently conspicuous by their absence. The MLB.TV subscription page mentions Gameday Audio and a new “Pitch by Pitch App”, so there may be a few changes on the horizon for Gameday. Hopefully more information on those products will be available soon. Last year they were priced at $15 (£9.30) and $20 (£12.41) respectively (note that Gameday Premium included the Gameday Audio service).
iPhones, iPads etc!
MLB.com’s subscription announcement has coincided with the much-hyped launch of the Apple iPad yesterday, at which MLB.com demonstrated a new MLB.TV app for the product. That side of things dominates the MLB.com literature, which is great for those who have (or will have) an iPhone or an iPad, but isn’t much to get excited about for the majority of us that are somehow surviving without them. Yes, I am jealous!
So those are the subscription details, with the Gameday Audio and Gameday items still to come. This will be my sixth season of using MLB.TV and, along with Gameday Audio, I can highly recommend it to any British baseball fan.
The Spring Training games can’t start soon enough.